Chief of Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation SK Karen Bird speaks to people gathered at the unveiling of the Sisters in Spirit memorial, a sculpture to honour murdered and missing Indigenous women and children created by Tristen Sanderson and Lionel Peyachew. Photo taken in Prince Albert, SK on July 7, 2021.MATT SMITH /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Original Published 16:39 Jun 03, 2022

By Julia Peterson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PBCN) Council of Elders has decided to remove Karen Bird as chief.

Bird was elected in April 2021 to represent more than 11,000 members.

A May 10 letter from the Elders Council said the decision to remove her came after formal complaints from councillors about “unprofessional conduct and behaviours of lateral violence displayed by Chief Karen Bird at a meeting of the PBCN Chief and Council and Band staff on Dec. 14, 2021 at the River Cree Resort in Edmonton, AB.”

The letter did not offer details of the alleged behaviour. It said Bird had also “ignored” rules about due process and Council decision making. 

The Elders Council said it met with Bird in February and April this year, and also sent her a recommendation letter in April — to which she did not respond in writing. 

The Elders Council also held community meetings in each PBCN community, the last of which was held on April 26. 

Ultimately, the Council found that Bird breached her oath of office, failed to abide by the standards of conduct outlined in the election code, and brought “disrespect and dishonour” upon her office, the letter stated.

It said PCBN’s election code gives the Elders Council the power to remove a chief and call for a byelection.

In an open letter posted to her Facebook page, Bird said she will fight the decision in court. 

“I believe a review by the courts will determine that the Elder’s Council acted without authority in deciding to remove me from office,” her letter states, adding that the Elder’s Council has no mandate to remove her from office.

“The role of Elder’s Councils is to advise and guide leadership, not to tear them down.”

Bird’s letter also did not include specific details about the allegations against her, which she called “false and damaging,” as well as “highly personal and harmful.”

The letter added, “Coming into my role, I’ve encountered a poor governance system, a dysfunctional administration that would not follow direction, and a huge deficit created by poor fiscal management over previous years. As I tried to put in place policies and procedures to address these issues, I was faced with resistance from the Vice Chief and certain councillors. 

“These constant attempts to undermine me as Chief, and to erode the Elder’s Council’s trust in me, have created a toxic work environment and have made it a struggle for my administration to move forward any changes or improvements.”

Bird could not be reached for further comment.

This item reprinted from The StarPhoenix, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan